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Taking Stock Posted on December 19th

Note: Lately, I’ve gotten fascinated with stock imagery. The obsession began when I planned to write a post about art and science. I went looking for a generic picture of test tubes filled with colored liquid, and stumbled upon the world of stock photography. Do you know there’s a stock photograph for everything from birth to death, success to meth use, dogs to pills? There are a million stock images of pills for some reason–pills spilling from bottles, pills coming at you and fading away in the background, pills, pills, pills. The following is Part One of a two part series about responding to these images I find so bizarrely resonant.

Conception Life begins in pink Petri dish, negligently exposed to the air. To the right, seven pre-sorted zygotes await screening. You in the uncapped dish, however, now have a rare, cancer-absorbing mold growing around you. The mold becomes the primary concern of the lab workers. They feed it, check it, swab it and allow you to exist on the chance that you too nurture the mold.

 pilldrop.jpg Of course you are told you were conceived like everyone else: when a mommy and daddy tablet dissolved in God’s gut.

baby.jpg  When you are born, the doctor checks your “quin” factor (that’s industry speak for quintessential). You are deemed fit and able to represent all babies.

pillfork1.jpg pillsonplate.jpg

“Hey diddle diddle

The pestle and mortar

The fork sprung over Neptune

The knife drew back

 Quite jealous

 And the placebo jilted the spoon.”


You pretend you are about to launch a paper airplane during homework hour. A woman, pretending to be your mother, feigns concern. You look up, make a show of beseeching a higher power for guidance and the higher power advises, in the spirit of fun, to go ahead and throw it–”there is no higher law, anyhow.” The higher power carries the joke over to legitimate beseechers. The book acting as your textbook is opened to a page where an image plays at existence. A real plant pretends to be a fake plant to “widen its range.” In the background, a scrim hangs to hide the unpretending universe beyond.


The wall leans away from you. The hallway widens around you, both containing you and avoiding contamination–like the loose, uncommitted grip of someone holding an injured and possibly diseased bird. The chair back rears back, wishing it were in a position to refuse you. A door opens not to invite you in, but to swing out of your range. Only a text overlay risks contact.


What people willfully forget is that the natural state of the universe is not “unique” or “individual” or “diverse.” It is uniform like injected plastic molding, it is bland like reams of paper, it is repetitive like pills pooling before being sorted and funneled into bottles by a robotic arm. The Milky Way, the Big Bang–these resemble velveteen production and high-volume welding more than they do art. Ultimately, the universe after humankind will be like the universe before humankind: consummately industrial. We did not invent industry, we simply caught on to the larger scheme.


A mournful chattel, pills

 a sad and lonely lot

absent disease and absent humanity

themselves is all they got


 “What’s all this I hear about mental anguish and suffering?!” the higher power demands. “I don’t buy it. Bring me evidence!” An image of a man, head in hands, is the first available sample. “Poor sap…” the higher power coos. “How many more like him?” They tell him. “Are you serious? Talk about a public relations disaster! Send this guy a few free joy-samples to shut him up. Then get marketing up here!”


Woman: ?! (tempers a question with a demand and a demand with a question)

 Man:… (trails off even before beginning)

Woman: : (introduces a list to solicit a list)

 Man: , , , (provides a silent list of grievances)

Woman: “ ” (echoes his silence as an indictment of it)

 Man: ( ) (thinks)

Woman: ( ) ? (what is he thinking)

Man: = (lets her draw a conclusion) 

 Woman: . (it’s over)  

Man: . * (agrees, but knows *it never is)


Public Perceptions of the Blister Pack: 1653 to Present (an excerpt)

 English Serf, 1653, on what “blister pack“ means to him: Tis a mad gatterinth of ills–wounds & pus & bad humuors & gouty holes in legs, and if’n you haveth a woodleg it’s a worm-hole in thaet. As hounds come biting in thrices, blisters haveth their own packs and yowl and biteth and live in ye streets with jaws upturn-ed and just by traversing to and fro they gnaw on ye feet but quiet and won’t suffer being clubbed as theare isinth nothing there but to club. Are a dark & devilishe pack sent up from the bowels below and even ye bowels sometime be atean by blisters inside tryeth as they do to ate their way back into ye streets and join the rest of their forseken bretheren.

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